Winding Down

For the first time in over a year, I’m not teaching my “Unwind the Spine” class on a Friday night. I have mixed emotions about this. First, I welcome the opportunity to spend more time with my family. I’m looking forward to pouring my energy into creating a delicious Friday night Shabbat meal for family and close friends. However, I’ll miss spending time with my family of yogis as we welcome the weekend, and let go of tension from the week.

“Unwind the Spine” was a lovely class that started just before the pandemic forced us all to rethink where and how we do yoga. When I first started this class I was excited to use foam rollers and other props that were available at Refresh Studios. Since foam rollers, blocks, bolsters and the like are not always available to students in their homes, I had to shift my teaching style to find household items to use as props. The homemade towel roll bolster was born! I found that simply folding a bath towel in four and rolling it from the short end can work wonders to unravel tight areas of the spine. One day I’ll teach “Unwind the Spine” again. Until then, roll up your towel and try these tips to loosen up some of your tightest areas:

  • To relieve upper back tension:
    • Place the towel roll horizontally on your yoga mat and lie down with the roll across your shoulder blades
    • Bring your arms out to a Cactus/Goal Post position
    • Take 10 (ish) slow breaths in and out through the nose. Try to release and relax with each exhale
    • Next, on the inhale bring your arms (with elbows bent) toward each other
    • As you exhale lower the arms (still with elbows bent) to or toward the floor
    • Repeat this sequence 5-10 times
  • To release lower back/hip tension:
    • Place the towel horizontally on your yoga mat and lie down with the roll under the small of your back
    • Make sure your tushie is supported and touching the floor
    • Bring the legs a little wider than hip distance apart and let the toes point inward toward each other
    • Take 10 (ish) slow breaths in and out through the nose. Try to release and relax with each exhale
    • Now bend the knees and place feet flat on floor, lift the hips and move the roll downward so it is under the hip bones
    • As you exhale lower both knees toward the right until the left hip raises slightly off the towel roll
    • Inhale knees to center, then exhale both knees to the left
    • Repeat this sequence 5-10 times
  • Alter the position above by lifting hips and moving the towel roll to the right. Now only the right hip will be on the towel, while the left hip comes to the floor.
    • Lift the right foot off the floor with the knee bent
    • Keeping the knee bent, make slow circles with the right leg
    • You can leave the left knee bent with foot on floor, or extend it and let the leg rest on the floor (extending the leg will intensify the massage)
    • After you’ve made 5-10 circles on the right, repeat on left side.

One day, I hope to bring “Unwind the Spine” back. Until then, try the above towel tricks or join me for one of my weekly offerings. I teach Hatha Yoga (Sundays 5-6 pm MT), Yoga 1 (Mondays, 5:30 pm MT) and Healing through Yoga (Wednesdays at 5:30 MT).

If you’d like a personalized sequence or an individual session focused on your health goals, please drop me a line at lorie@wellnesswithlorie.com. You can also sign up for a class or private session by clicking here. For more tips on pain relief and injury prevention through yoga and physical therapy, sign up for my newsletter here, or follow me on social media on FaceBook @yogalorie, Instagram Wellness_with_Lorie, or LinkedIn yogalorie

Wrist Watch

Two years ago I had carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists. Not at the same time…..that would have been crazy! I recovered from the first (mostly), and had surgery on the second soon after. As you might suspect, it really messed with my yoga practice. I never really thought about how many downward dogs were in a yoga class until I struggled with this kind of discomfort. Many yoga practitioners have asked me how to prevent wrist pain while in postures like table, plank and downward dog. The first thing to do is to have the pain checked out by your doctor. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, when left untreated can lead to permanent problems, such as decreased muscle strength and function, or lack of sensation. But enough gloom and doom. The big question for yogis is what to do during a yoga class to prevent pain and avoid further injury.

Let’s first take a peek inside the wrist to get an idea of what’s going on in there. Which is actually quite a lot! Although there may be other causes of wrist pain, I’ll focus on the carpal tunnel since this is such a prevalent problem in our society. The carpal tunnel is a space between structures on the anterior (palm side) of the wrist. This space is like a pipeline for the median nerve and a bunch of muscle tendons as they go from the arm to the hand and fingers. The median nerve supplies muscles in the forearm, palm and fingers of the hand. It has the job of making the muscles of the thumb, index finger and middle finger move. It’s responsible for us being able to grasp objects, so it’s pretty important. Repetitive motion and continuous pressure on the anterior wrist can cause inflammation in the muscle tendons. The pipeline (carpal tunnel) gets clogged in a way, and then compresses the median nerve. Compression often causes tingling or pain in the fingers (thumb, index and middle), can reduce the ability to grasp objects, or cause one to drop objects. By the way, If you start to drop objects…..it’s definitely time to go to the doctor.

Because of pressure on the wrists, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can also cause pain or discomfort in the above mentioned yoga postures. To avoid this discomfort check your alignment when you’re in postures with weight on your hands. Try the following tips when in table, downward facing dog or plank pose:

Table:

  1. Come onto your hands and knees and align your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips
  2. Spread your fingers wide and point your index finger forward. If you’re on a yoga mat, your index fingers will be parallel to the long sides of your mat
  3. Internally rotate your forearms inward so that the insides of the elbows face toward each other instead of facing forward
  4. Finally, press the mound under the base of your index finger into the earth. This will take pressure off your thumbs and wrist

Downward Facing Dog

  1. From your position in table (remember to align the hands), tuck your toes under and lift your hips up
  2. Now rotate your forearms outward
  3. As in table, press the mound under the base of your index finger into the earth. This will take pressure off your thumbs and wrist
  4. Evenly distribute your weight between your hands and your feet so that not all the pressure is on the hands.

Plank

  1. Start in Table with hands aligned
  2. Extend each leg back and tuck the toes under to find your plank posture
  3. Rotate forearms inward and press down through the index finger mound , as you did in table
  4. Finally, press your heels back toward the wall behind you to distribute the weight more evenlyHopefully these tips will help make these three postures more comfortable and accessible during your yoga practice.

For a yoga class to help all your body parts feel better, try one of my weekly offerings. I teach Hatha Yoga (Sundays 5-6 pm MT), Yoga 1 (Mondays, 5:30 pm MT) and Healing through Yoga (Wednesdays at 5:30 MT).

If you’d like a personalized sequence or an individual session focused on your health goals, please drop me a line at lorie@wellnesswithlorie.com. You can also sign up for a class or private session by clicking here. For more tips on pain relief and injury prevention through yoga and physical therapy, sign up for my newsletter here, or follow me on social media on FaceBook @yogalorie, Instagram Wellness_with_Lorie, or LinkedIn yogalorie

Is the Weight of the World on Your Shoulders?

It does seem that the shoulders bear more than their share of burdens. And yet…..they persevere through lifting, carrying, sports, and all other manner of abuse we put them through. The shoulders are really a miracle of engineering. The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body. This is great, because it allows us to move our hands freely, thus providing access to all sorts of tasks and activities. It’s also not so great, because this joint is often the victim of injury. To understand the reasons for this, and ways to keep your shoulders healthy and happy, we must first look at the anatomy of this versatile joint.

The shoulder joint is made up of the humerus (upper arm bone), clavical (collar bone), and scapula (shoulder blade). The humerus fits into a cavity called the glenoid fossa, which is on the outside edge of the scapula. Stability of the shoulder joint is mostly a function of four muscles called the rotator cuff muscles. These muscles originate on the scapula and insert on the top of the humerus. They provide movement and support to the shoulder. When these muscles become weak or inflamed, then pain, reduced range of motion, and instability can occur at the shoulder joint. This can lead to increased risk of injury. In addition to the rotator cuff muscles, there are also muscles knows as scapular stabilizers. These muscles reside in the upper back and attach to the scapula. They help with both movement and stability of the scapula. Scapular movement allows the the arm to achieve greater range of motion. It’s important to keep the scapular stabilizers and the rotator cuff muscles strong for optimum wellness of the shoulders and arms.

If you attend a gym, there are many machines that can help you strengthen these muscles. But if the gym isn’t your scene, you can still achieve good results on your own at home. I also offer private “Functional Yoga Coaching” to address individual wellness goals and a weekly yoga class called “Yoga for Healing” (sign up here).

Try the following exercises and yoga postures to help strengthen your shoulder muscles:

  • Alternating from Plank (Khumbhakasana) to Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  • Half Locust (Salabhasana) with I, Y, and T arm movements
  • Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
  • Bridge (Setu Bandhasana) with hands clasped underneath
  • Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
  • Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Maysendrasana)
  • Arm Movements during standing postures, such as Warrior 1 & 2 (Virabhadrasana) can increase range of motion

For a yoga class to help all your body parts feel better, try one of my weekly offerings. I teach Hatha Yoga (Sundays 5-6 pm MT), Yoga 1 (Mondays, 5:30 pm MT) and Healing through Yoga (Wednesdays at 5:30 MT).

If you’d like a personalized sequence or an individual session focused on your health goals, please drop me a line at lorie@wellnesswithlorie.com. You can also sign up for a class or private session by clicking here. For more tips on pain relief and injury prevention through yoga and physical therapy, sign up for my newsletter here, or follow me on social media on FaceBook @yogalorie, Instagram Wellness_with_Lorie, or LinkedIn yogalorie

What a Pain in the Neck!

Neck pain and stiffness are common in our society. Sadly, not even old yogis like me are exempt from this persistent malady. The neck is really an amazing body part. This short structure connects the torso to the head and holds the weight of the world. Ok, really it just holds up our world, aka the head, which weighs roughly the same as a bowling ball. It also houses nerves that control the neck, eyes, diaphragm, arms, and hands. This means that tension in the neck can lead to headaches, sinus problems, vision problems, fatigue, and numbness in arms, hands, and fingers. Yes, the neck has really got our backs, and yet we fail to attend to its needs.

So how do things go so terribly, terribly wrong with the neck? Much of the tension we feel is due to our lifestyles. Our body is designed for the parts of the spine to stack in perfect alignment. Our ideal alignment features the ears over the shoulders, shoulders over the hips, and hips over ankles. When we sit in front of our computers or watch TV this is not happening. Often, we lean forward towards the computer, then maybe tilt our heads upward and/or forward to see the monitor. Of course, our posture does not improve when we relax on the couch to binge watch our favorite shows. Then we might slump in our seats, or lay out on the couch with our necks in an uncomfortable and unnatural position. Sometimes even “a good night’s sleep” is not so good for our necks.

If you’re experiencing problems that may stem from neck tension, it’s time to take action. A trip to the doctor may rule out any serious problems. If that’s the case, you can try the following ideas to help reduce any pain, tension, headaches, etc. For more tips on spinal health, subscribe to my newsletter here.

First, try changing your pillow. If you start the day with a headache or neck pain, the solution may be as simple as buying a new pillow. Look for one that offers support, but has enough give to avoid placing the neck at an angle. If a pillow is too firm , it puts the neck in misalignment…..too soft and it does not offer support.

Next, consider your posture as you go about your day. Ask yourself, “Where are my ears?” If the answer is, “My ears are in front of my shoulders,” then it’s time to realign. See my post Don’t Wear Your Shoulders As Earrings for more tips on posture. Now incorporate movement and neck stretches into your day. Try the following:

  • Start with your gaze forward, then move your head to the right. Pause briefly, then come back to center. Do this 10 times on the right, then repeat on the left.
  • Next, look to the right again, and as you exhale allow the chin to come down in a half circle to the chest. Inhale, as you continue this half circle bringing head to gaze to the left. Exhale and repeat towards the right. Do this 10 times. You can also do full neck circles if you do not feel discomfort or pain with them. Many yoga classes are helpful for releasing tension as well. To sign up for my “Unwind the Spine” class on Fridays at 4:30 MT, click here.
  • Now work on scapular movement. With your arms by your sides (elbows bent), or in your lap, squeeze the shoulder blades together. Hold for a breath and release. Repeat 10 times.
  • To stretch your neck, sit up tall on a chair and place your right hand behind your low back, near the sacrum. Let the left ear drop towards the left shoulder. Hold and breathe for 5-6 breaths. Repeat 2-3 times, then switch sides.
  • To strengthen the deep muscles in the neck, lie on your back and gently press the back of your neck down to the surface beneath you. Your chin will slightly tuck. Hold for a breath, release and repeat 10-20 times.

Being mindful about taking care of your neck can go a long way towards releasing tension and alleviating pain. For more ideas on neck stretches or for Functional Yoga Coaching or classes feel free to contact me.

For a yoga class to help all your body parts feel better, try one of my weekly offerings. I teach Hatha Yoga (Sundays 5-6 pm MT), Yoga 1 (Mondays, 5:30 pm MT) and Healing through Yoga (Wednesdays at 5:30 MT).

If you’d like a personalized sequence or an individual session focused on your health goals, please drop me a line at lorie@wellnesswithlorie.com. You can also sign up for a class or private session by clicking here. For more tips on pain relief and injury prevention through yoga and physical therapy, sign up for my newsletter here, or follow me on social media on FaceBook @yogalorie, Instagram Wellness_with_Lorie, or LinkedIn yogalorie